The W Studio
Sounding as good as it looks, the W Studio delivers all you’d hope given the company’s longrunning expertise in high-end soundbars.
Being not only a soundbar and wireless subwoofer but also part of Definitive Technology’s wireless multiroom system, there’s more than just movie sound here — onboard wireless music streaming, full control via smartphone or tablet, and every reason to be optimistic about sound performance given the company’s strong history in soundbars and particularly subwoofers.
The ‘W’ Studio comes with its subwoofer all in the one entertainingly bonkers box, the two elements within this triple-protected by polystyrene, plastic and cloth wrapping. They emerge in some glory, indeed, being beautiful things. The subwoofer is an artistic study in cubes and squares, with a hidden DefTech-blue highlight in its downfiring port. The soundbar is a slim unit having a perfectly square crosssection terminated by lovely solid aluminium end-caps, the 110cm length covered with the company’s usual stretched cloth, punctuated by the five controls shared by all the company’s W wireless multiroom range.
The bar can be wallmounted, or placed straight on a surface, or raised slightly (to fit over a TV base, for example) using magnetic feet which reject attempts to sit them right under the aluminium end caps, but settle happily anywhere else convenient along its length. Should the bar happen to block your TV’s IR receiver, you can use a supplied IR blaster on a cable from a rear minijack to relay your TV’s remote commands.
Connections can be made in several ways to the W Studio. The best is to plug your sources into the bar via HDMI — there are three inputs and one output. Plugging your sources in this way will ensure the bar receives any Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1-channel surround soundtracks (it includes processing for both). Set-up was again a cinch, hampered only by things getting fairly tight in the connection bay (pictured below) once you have four HDMI cables snaking their way inside. And unusually for an HDMI-equipped soundbar, the HDMI output doesn’t support ARC (the Audio Return Channel), so if you want to hear any audio from the TV itself — from its own tuner, its smart TV sources or from anything else plugged into the TV directly — you’ll also need to run an optical or analogue cable from TV to soundbar.
Alternatively run that audio cable and leave all your sources plugged into the TV, though even via optical, many TVs will strip surround information down to stereo, so you may lose spatial information if not actual sound quality unless you use the HDMI. (Note the HDMI sockets are 1.4a spec.)
Either way the Definitive Technology bar can learn the commands from your TV remote so you can continue to use that instead of, or in addition to, the useful remote that comes with this system.
You will need the physical remote control to make sure you’re in the right sound ‘mode’, otherwise the W Studio can play tricks with your music. With the remote control you can choose either ‘Movie’ mode (the default) or ‘Music’ mode, but behind this in the menus you can set each of these with varying amounts of what Definitive Technology calls SSA (Solo Surround Array) Immersion; the defaults are quoted at +10 for Movie mode and +5 for Music, though after a reset the default on our sample was -10 for Music. We reset this to 0, hoping this might mean no messing with the sound (though the manual insists “There is no
right setting”). In any case the effect did not seem extreme on music presentation — more useful was the separate control on the remote for bass, an excellent inclusion; the centre point is clearly indicated by LEDs on the soundbar so it’s easy to get back to its default positions.
As hoped, the W Studio does an impressive job of carrying a tune — we beamed stereo tunes from iPad and NAS drive, and there was a rare integration between subwoofer and soundbar holding together the frequency range; Leonard Cohen’s deep vocal emerged as one piece rather than being pulled into bass and midrange elements; bass guitars were solid rather than stretched out or split. Multichannel music from Blu-ray was also impressively rendered, large and wide, its quality far above the achievements of more midrange soundbars. Sticking to ‘Movie’ mode and dropping the bass a few dB delivered a rich presentation of the ‘Goin’ Your Way’ Sydney Opera House concert by Neil Finn and Paul Kelly, the sound supported by solid bass kick but no bloom.
With actual movies the separate ‘centre’ level control is also useful, to bring up dialogue without increasing overall volume. (There’s also a ‘night’ mode available under the on-screen menu.) When receiving genuine surround signals the drivers in the soundbar did a fine job of maximising its presentation of a 5.1-channel soundtrack through the three pairs of three-inch woofers and three 25mm aluminium dome tweeters. While they don’t seem specially angled under that black cloth, the outer woofers appear to deliver surround information, the next two woofers play the main left and right channels, while the two centre drivers play the centre channel and thereby support strong dialogue. With stereo material all six woofers are used.
One possible issue for users — we could find no lipsync adjustment in the DefTech’s menus; we didn’t need it for TV audio sent via the optical cable to the bar, but it was certainly required for our Blu-ray player going through the bar to the TV. Since the TV can’t bring the video forward in time, we had to rely on our Oppo Blu-ray player to add up to 150ms audio delay to get things together properly. If your source can’t adjust, you could be stuck here.
One of the best recommendations we can offer overall here is that once we had finished testing, we left the DefTech in our system, it just worked, and delivered clear full audio whether for day-to-day TV down the optical cable or for full-on soundtracks from Blu-ray — plus the bonus of Play-Fi streaming and the potential of working as part of a larger multiroom system.
Doubling up as an element of Definitive Technology’s ‘W’ multiroom system and as a sophisticated soundbar and wireless sub solution, the W Studio is a powerful beast, rich in sound, clever in its control of the different sound elements. And a looker.